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Nick Hakim returns to his D.C. roots - one heartbreaking, lo-fi song at a time

It’s almost hard to believe that the Nick Hakim sipping a beer at Songbyrd is the same person on the records that bear his name. With his scruff and hoodie, D.C.-native Hakim looks like any other 26-year-old partying in Adams Morgan. However, listening through his neo-soul EPs feels like discovering an album you’d dust off in your cool uncle’s attic.

Although Hakim’s first album “Green Twins” will be released on May 19, his singles and EPs are achey, dreamy and distinguished by his talent as a singer and a guitarist. However, Hakim’s predilection towards lo-fi heartbreak is tied to his punk and hip-hop-infused upbringing in D.C.

On surface it may seem like Hakim has abandoned thumping rhythms and thrashing guitar riffs that shaped his youth, but his Feb. 25 show at Songbyrd left no doubt about where he came from. The single “Bet She Looks Like You” from Hakim’s upcoming debut album was as melancholy as his recordings; but as gripped his guitar and let music fill the cramped space, Hakim’s intensity rivaled that of any punk frontman. During another number, Hakim jumped up and down with the enraptured audience, never dropping his soulful voice.

“I was always around a lot of different things that were going on in D.C., musically,” Hakim explained. “When I was in high school, my friends were in a bunch of go-go bands and I’d go to their rehearsals to hand out and listen.”

Hakim’s older brother introduced him to the local punk and hardcore scene - music like The Goons, Bad Brains and Minor Threat were “always in the house,” he said. On his upcoming album, Hakim said he tries to channel a go-go beat in at least one song.

“It’s not like,” he laughs and shrugs, dismissing his own attempt. “I’d like to come down here and link up with some of the people that I know that are involved in the O.G. go-go bands in D.C. — it’s something that I’d love to explore.”

Despite departing D.C. to attend Berklee College of Music and eventually settling in New York, Hakim’s family still lives in the DMV and he returns often; this was his second show at Sonbyrd. In the future, Hakim said that he hopes he can collaborate with locals across the musical genres that shaped his past and present.